Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Strange Standards for the Supreme Court
Goodwin Liu is a 39-year-old professor at Berkeley Law School, whom President Obama has nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.Â Like the vast majority of Obama appellate judicial nominees, Senate Republicans have filibustered him.
The real reason Republicans are trying to block Liu is this: Because of his youth (heâ€™s 39), intelligence and outlook, heâ€™d be a tempting choice the next time a spot opens up on the Supreme Court. A Liu pick would delight Obamaâ€™s liberal base and â€” depending on who he replaced â€” potentially move a conservative dominated, corporate friendly court to the left for the first time in generations.
But Liu has to make it to the federal bench first. Republicans know that. And thatâ€™s why Republicans have rallied to block his nomination.
Serwer is not alone in making this argument, but I find it incomprehensible.Â I see no reason why previous appellate court experience — or indeed, any judicial experience — should be a prerequisite for Supreme Court service.
Consider many of the best justices over the past century: Brandeis, Frankfurter, Jackson, Hughes (on the first run) Black, Warren, Murphy: none of them had previous judicial experience.Â Justice Harlan had a few months on the Second Circuit, which hardly constitutes experience.Â Indeed, I could argue that prior judicial experience is a strike against prospective justices: living in cloistered judicial chambers begins to narrow the vision and breed a kind of formalism that undermines the Court as an institution.
If Obama thinks that Liu should be on the Supreme Court, then he should nominate him at his next opportunity.Â Somehow, I think that a tenured member of the Berkeley Law faculty with a distinguished record of scholarship and public service will be able to allay any fears about his ability to do the job.Â And if Senators don’t like his politics, then a few years on the Ninth Circuit won’t change matters.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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